Jack's Punkin' Ale 2011

>> Sunday, October 16, 2011

I brewed my pumpkin-inspired ale today.  There seems to be two schools of thought on pumpkin beers, and that is to use or not to use real pumpkin in the mash.  I've read a bit about it and also listened to a few podcasts on the subject, and from what I'm seeing/hearing you don't get much, if any, benefit from using real pumpkin in the brew.  To the contrary, it seems that it can make a bit of a mess, so it can make clean-up more of a chore.  So as you can probably tell, I lean towards not adding pumpkin.  The pumpkin character that I'm after actually comes from spices typically found in pumpkin pie recipes.

I never got around to making this recipe in 2010, but I made it back in 2009. It's based on an extract recipe I found on BasicBrewing.com...I'd give more credit if I could, but they're redesigning their site and the recipe database is currently unavailable.  I converted the recipe to all-grain, but I can't remember if I used a program to convert it, or if I approximated based on other all-grain recipes.  Anyway, I was hoping to get started on this beer a little earlier so that it was ready by Halloween but it'll still be ready for the holidays.  

The last time I made this beer I noted I thought it could use a bit more cinnamon, so I've increased the amount slightly.  Also, I've upped the grain bill a bit so this year's version will be a bit higher gravity.

13 lbs Crisp Pale Ale malt
1 lbs Crisp Crystal 45L
1 lbs Weyermann Cara Munich I
1/2 lbs Weyermann Cara Red
1 oz Hallertau 60 min
0.5 oz Cascade 5 min
1 t Allspice, ground 15 min
1 t Apple Pie Spice 15 min
1 t Cloves, ground 15 min
1 T Nutmeg, ground 15 min
5 Cinnamon sticks 15 min
Wyeast 2565 Kolsch Yeast
1-2 Cinnamon sticks in the secondary after primary is complete

Mashed at 152 for 60 min
Mash-out at 168 for 10 min

Pre-Boil Brix = 16.2
Post-Boil Brix = 18.4

I was a little worried that I didn't get my yeast starter going early enough.  I started it around 3pm on 10/15 and pitched around 1:30pm on 10/16.  Seeing signs of active fermentation as of 6pm 10/15, so I think I'm good.


Finished Brew Stand!

>> Sunday, October 09, 2011

I finally finished my brewstand so I thought I'd add this post to summarize the build and also to update the previous posts that describe my overall system.  I've brewed one batch so far, a clone of Dogfish Head's Indian Brown Ale.  I'm very happy with the way everything turned out.  The only problem, if you can call it that, is the burner was a lot more powerful than my old propane one and I had a couple of minor boil-overs on the maiden voyage.

The only thing I can think of that I would do differently if I were to start over again is I'd probably position the casters a bit wider for added stability and I'd probably use swivel casters on all four corners so that the stand is more maneuverable.

Just a couple of disclaimers, I'm brand new to welding so I doubt that my welds would pass x-ray tests.  Some of my welds are a bit ugly...as luck would have it, it seems like the ugliest tend to be in highly visible areas.  Regardless, they seem to be plenty strong and the stand seems very sturdy.  My stand is a gas/electric hybrid and there are dangers involved in working with each.  Do not attempt something like this without doing some research and make sure you fully understand the risks involved.

This version is essentially version 4.0 of my brewery.  1.0 was my extract setup, 2.0 was my gravity fed all-grain system, 3.0 was the initial incarnation of the BCS-controlled HERMS, and 4.0 with the custom stand and integrated burner is the current version.

Below are some pics of the finished product.  The shelves are all diamond plate aluminum.  The black portion of the stand is painted with Rust-Oleum® High Heat spray paint and the silver portion is painted with Rust-Oleum® Hammered spray paint.  Primary features of my custom stand include:
  • BCS-460-Controlled HERMS
  • Control Panel
  • March 809 Pump
  • 40 Plate Counter Flow Plate Chiller
  • Natural Gas Burner
  • Dual Carbon Water Filters

Brewstand Done!
BCS-460-controlled HERMS
My brew stand is an electric HERMS (Heat Exchanged Recirculating Infusion Mash System) with a natural gas burner for the boil kettle.  The electric portion is controlled by a BCS-460 from Embedded Control Concepts.  Mine isn't quite as fancy as some BCS-based systems out there.  A lot of them are fully automated but mine is targeted more for just controlling the mash process.  I currently use two temp probes to control two 1500 watt 110 volt heating elements.  One element is used in the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) and one is used in a standalone Heat Exchanger (HEX).  A lot of HERMS systems use a combination HLT and HEX but a standalone HEX gives you a little more flexibility.  This is because the reaction time of my HEX is much quicker than when you're trying to heat the entire volume of a combo HLT/HEX.  The mash is circulated from Mash Tun (MT) through the HEX then returned to the MT by the pump.  The BCS-460 triggers three relays to control the elements and the pump.  The result is consistent mash temperatures that allow me to brew with repeatable results.  Long story short, it removes some potential variables.  If I make the same recipe three different times I should get nearly identical end products each time (assuming I have consistent fermentation control as well).

Control Panel
The Control Panel enclosure is a Hoffman C12C12 Consolet Steel Junction Box ordered from DougDeals.  The control panel includes three switches, (2) two-way switches (off-on) for the HEX and HLT elements and (1) three-way switch (auto-off-manual) for the pump.  I also have a momentary switch that can be used to advance to the next state on my BCS (e.g. advance from a pause for hose swaps to start mash recirculation).

The temperature probes are connected to the back of the control panel via 1/8" mono headphone jacks and plugs from Radio Shack.  The three solid state relays that control the elements and pump are mounted to a large heatsink from HeatsinkUSA and the heatsink is mounted to the back of the control panel.  The panel tags and legend plates are from Precision Engraving & Graphics (the owner's husband is also a homebrewer!).
Control Panel

Control Panel Innards

Back of Control Panel

March 809 Pump
This is your standard homebrew pump and I used it on my old setup.  On the old setup, it was mounted very low, tended to cause a lot of vibration because of poor mounting, and was difficult to lubricate.  For my stand, I fabricated a mount below the burner for the pump and it includes a 1/8" thick piece of neoprene rubber on the mounting surface.  This helps cut down on rattles and vibration.  It also includes a splash guard made from diamond plate aluminum to protect the pump motor from boil-overs and accidental spills.  The splash guard is attached with thumb screws so it can be easily removed when the motor needs lubricating.  As I mentioned above, the pump can be automatically controlled by the BCS-460 or manually controlled.
Pump and Mount

40 Plate Counter Flow Plate Chiller
This is a brand new piece of equipment.  After building a CFC out of copper tubing and not being too happy with the results, I decided to bite the bullet and order a plate chiller from Duda Diesel.  The chiller seems to work great and it's very compact compared to the DIY CFC I built.  I fabricated an L-shaped mount for it below the burner but above the pump.  It rests on a 1/8" neoprene rubber pad as well and is attached to the stand with stainless steel thumb screws so it can be easily removed for cleaning.  All connections use quick disconnects (cam locks for wort in/out and brass disconnects for the water in/out).
Counter Flow Chiller Front

CFC Back with Thumb Screws
Natural Gas Burner
The natural gas burner is a 6 inch low pressure burner from agrisupply.com.  It's intended for propane, but I converted it to NG using the natural gas conversion valve from Williams Brewing.  To do this I had to drill out the threads on the burner and tap threads for the conversion valve.  The burner is supplied by a 25' ½" hose from G4Burner.com.  The burner was rated for 70K BTU's using propane.  I'm not sure how many BTU's result from the NG conversion (NG has less potential energy than propane) and the long length of ½" hose, but it seems to do the job very well.  I reached boil about 10-15 minutes sooner than with my previous setup and now I don't have to worry about running out of fuel mid-boil.

Dual Carbon Water Filters
These are your basic water filter housings available from Lowes or Home Depot.  They're mounted on the back upper rail of the stand and feature a quick-disconnect so my water line can be easily attached.  I decided to go with dual filters to increase the contact time with the carbon and thus reduce the chance of chlorine making its way into my brewing water.
Water Filters

I just want to say thanks to everyone that posts info online in various blogs and forums for inspiring me and contributing ideas for this project.  I've always wanted to give welding a try and this was a really fun project that's going to make my homebrewing hobby so much more enjoyable.  I also want to thank my very loving and understanding wife for supporting my brewing hobby.  She says I always tell her "as soon as I have xyz on my brewing setup, I'll be done..."  I think we've both learned that there are always improvements to be made and I'm glad my honey allows me to experiment without giving me too much grief.

Another pic

Back side
Update 1/19/2014
I know the title of this post is "Finished Brew Stand!" and I posted it in October of 2011, but brewers are always looking to make minor tweaks to their setups. I've been using the trub/hop filter from BrewersHardware.com since I finished my stand. This piece of equipment is used to filter debris (mostly hop particles) so that my plate chiller doesn't clog. It works great and I've only clogged the filter once when I tried recirculating. I used a camlock to attach the filter to the in port on my plate chiller and it did fine but it always worried me because the weight of the filter was totally supported by the plate chiller. I finally decided to order a bracket for the filter and got around to mounting it this weekend. The mount for the bracket is simple, just a piece of 2x2x1/8 angle iron welded to the stand. It has a hole drilled in it for a 12mm bolt which is used to attach the bracket to the stand. It really holds the filter securely, so there's no chance of bumping the filter and accidentally damaging my plate chiller. I've added a couple pictures below.
Mount for trub filter bracket

TF bracket mounted

TF mounted in TF bracket